November 22, 2017
Mars Hill University will confer bachelor’s degrees on an expected 65 undergraduates during commencement ceremonies December 15, 2017, at 3:00 p.m. in Moore Auditorium.
Keynote speaker for the graduation will be A. Hope Williams, president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU), the statewide office of independent (private, non-profit) colleges and universities in North Carolina. The title of her address will be: “Charting Your Path from the Hill.”
In addition to undergraduate degrees, Mars Hill University will confer one honorary doctorate of humane letters to Michael C. Blackwell, president of the Baptist Children’s Homes of NC, Inc.
Student speakers for the graduation are Stephen Blount, a criminal justice major from Asheville, N.C., and Patience Lanford, a business major from Asheville, N.C., representing the Adult and Graduate Studies program.
Ashley Hill, an integrated education/special education major from Burnsville, N.C., will bring the invocation. Special music will be provided by Elizabeth Maynard, a music performance major from Hendersonville, NC.
Williams has been president of NCICU since 1992. Prior to becoming president, she served for six years as the director of the Center for Independent Higher Education, the former research and information arm of NCICU.
She received her undergraduate degree from Duke University, an M.P.A. degree from North Carolina State University, and a Ph.D. in education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also has received honorary degrees from Campbell University and Lees-McRae College. In 1999, she was named the Distinguished Woman of North Carolina in Education. She was named a “Woman Extraordinaire” in 2005 by Business Leader Magazine and she recently has been selected for the Triangle Business Journal’s 2017 CEO Awards.
Blackwell is the longest-tenured leader of the Baptist Children’s Home, and will mark his 35th anniversary in 2018. He is a national advocate for children, families and aging adults, and combines his talents to lead BCH — the Southeast’s largest child care and family services organization — in serving thousands with locations in 22 North Carolina communities and an orphanage in Guatemala.
He is a journalism graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate from Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest where he focused on Old Testament, Christian ethics, and pastoral counseling. Blackwell served in ministry positions in churches in Raleigh and Carthage, N.C., and then Richmond, Va., before accepting the presidency of BCH in 1983.
In addition to his role at BCH, Blackwell is the founder of North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry, which serves the needs of the aging. He also is a prolific writer, having authored hundreds of articles and six books, including Upside Down Leadership. His many awards and recognitions include The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. He was named one of the 30 most influential North Carolina Baptists of the 20th century and most recently, he was recognized as a “Most-admired” CEO in the Triad.